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Publisher's Summary

The long-awaited story of the science, the business, the politics, the intrigue behind the scenes of the most ferocious competition in the history of modern science, the race to map the human genome.

On May 10, 1998, biologist Craig Venter, director of the Institute for Genomic Research, announced that he was forming a private company that within three years would unravel the complete genetic code of human life, seven years before the projected finish of the U.S. government's Human Genome Project. Venter hoped that by decoding the genome ahead of schedule, he would speed up the pace of biomedical research and save the lives of thousands of people. He also hoped to become very famous and very rich. Calling his company Celera (from the Latin for "speed"), he assembled a small group of scientists in an empty building in Rockville, Maryland, and set to work.

At the same time, the leaders of the government program, under the direction of Francis Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, began to mobilize an unexpectedly unified effort to beat Venter to the prize, knowledge that had the potential to revolutionize medicine and society.

The stage was set for one of the most thrilling, and important, dramas in the history of science. The Genome War is the definitive account of that drama: the race for the greatest prize biology has had to offer, told by a writer with exclusive access to Venter's operation from start to finish. It is also the story of how one man's ambition created a scientific Camelot where, for a moment, it seemed that the competing interests of pure science and commercial profit might be gloriously reconciled, and the national repercussions that resulted when that dream went awry.

©2004 James Shreeve; (P)2004 Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Shreeve delivers commendably clear discourse on techno-molecular obstacles to sequencing DNA, topped with the vivid drama of Celera's mastery of the problems it encountered in doing so. Shreeve's intimate book is a crucial addition to the history of a major scientific fracas." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Neil
  • Palmyra, VA, USA
  • 02-24-04

DNA/Microbiology 101

The book covers very the discovery and mapping of the human DNA sequence back to Mendel. I give it a 4/5 because it repeats its scientific facts several times during the story telling you as if it was the first time the item was mentioned, this caused it to drag.

If it were fiction, I would accuse it of being to political/emotionally charged? It?s stunning how far the government sector went in funding and rhetoric to ?win? the DNA sequence. It sheds light on the human side of science and discovery, it is unfortunate what that light reveals is greed.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Business meets biology meets politics

An entralling account of genome research which takes an admirably impartial view towards the different forces (and people) that clash in this story. This book should be of interest to a wide variety of people including those wondering how the technological revolutions discussed here will work out in a more historical perspective. HIghly recommended!

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great account of the Great Race

The author had fantastic access to Craig Venter for the writing of this book, and once you get a few chapters in it's hard to put down. A must read for anyone interested in the biggest science story in recent years, and a semi-biography of one of the most inventive, important scientists of our day, Venter.

Highly recommended. Best or the second-best book I have ever gotten from Audible (Washington's Crossing is the other.)

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Tej
  • Cupertino, CA, USA
  • 09-05-07

Mini Bio Mini Story

Well written, well read.. gets you thru the whirlwind world that was Celera... Good listen!.
The author, however, spends too much time describing faces, body contours and clothing choices of the players in this real story. Both sides of the battle are covered failry well.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great book for anyone interested in the industry

Written in a way that doesn't require you to be a Doctor to understand, the book gives an interesting glimpse into the science of genomics, the personalities that have shaped it, and the potential impact on humankind. The author really does a great job at making the book story-like rather than textbook-like, which makes the listen quite enjoyable and entertaining.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Story + Narrator + Writer = Awesome

This was just masterfully brought to life. Fascinating story, artfully crafted, and narrated by Grover Gardner. Must listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • M
  • Burlingame, CA, United States
  • 05-23-09

A great story, well told

"The Genome War" is the fascinating story of the race to sequence the human genome. Shreeve tells it perfectly, describing the principal players, reviewing the history and the science, covering the politics and the business. It "reads" like a crime novel, with similes right out of Raymond Chandler and narrative devices out of Elmore Leonard. The reader was perfect too.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • MS
  • 09-01-04

Entertaining and educational

Great book. Not too technical. Entertaining and engaging.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Laurie
  • East Millstone, NJ, United States
  • 05-28-04

Fascinating but repetitive.

As a computer scientist in the trenches of the Genome Project, I found this a fascinating tale of personalities and science. Mr. Shreeve is a wonderful writer with a particular gift for metaphor, but I did find the book quite repetitive in its descriptions of the shotgun method of sequencing and the rancor between Celera and the government effort. I have listened to dozens of unabridged books and this is the first time I wish I had chosen the abridged version.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wonderful book, beautifully read

Would you listen to The Genome War again? Why?

Yes! It's a great story and a great read. There's a lot of science here and wonderful characters, too. Very satisfying.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Craig Venter is a true giant of science, and you have to love his boldness and bluntness. He should have won the Nobel several times over by now. The fact that he hasn't is a bit of a scandal.

What about Grover Gardner’s performance did you like?

He understands what he's reading, and he gives it just the right touch of humor or irony when that's called for. A great voice. I never lost interest.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I listen in my car, but there were a number of times when I sat for a few extra minutes when I got where I was going. I wanted to keep listening -- but then I didn't want it to end!

Any additional comments?

I'm not in the habit of writing reviews, but I felt I had to for this book. It's just an excellent story, beautifully told, and beautifully read. I recently listened to Craig Venter's "My Life Decoded," which covers the same ground as this book, and I enjoyed it as well, but James Shreeve's treatment is a marvel of exposition. He has a genius for finding just the right metaphor for explaining difficult concepts in memorable -- and often funny -- images. And Grover Gardner's performance is superb, with just the right dash of irony when it's called for. If you're interested in genomics, or biology -- or science, for that matter -- I recommend this book very, very highly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful